What the Heck are Trolls?

Let’s learn about trolls!  You mean those cute little dolls from Danmark?  No, I mean the kind of trolls that I grew up hearing about.  As I mentioned in a term paper for my Philosophy of Fiction class a couple of years back, I thought those Troll dolls with the gemstone in their belly were stupid.  Funny little side story about the Troll dolls real quick.  Did you know that Troll dolls are also called Dam dolls?  True story!  They were made by a Danish man by the name of Thomas Dam.  Yeah, that name got changed when they came Stateside.  On with the trolls that I grew up with though.

If they are not those odd looking dolls, what exactly are trolls?  The kind of trolls that I grew up were not cute, my sisters had troll dolls from when they first came out Stateside, but my mother has this idea that children need to be told the original horrifyingly frightening fairy tales and not those Disneyesque crap stories where everything comes up daisies and everyone gets their prince.  Yeah, life is not that wonderful.  Trolls, it seems, are a type of jötunn.  They live in the mountains and caves and are far from helpful to humans.  As much as I love Marvel’s character of Loki, if he was a jötunn he would be living in a cave and would be far from attractive.  Also, trolls are stupid.  In Norwegian folktales trolls tend to have tails and can have several heads.  They vary in size and some are only a few inches tall.  If you have read The Hobbit think of the trolls in that book.  They are hideous and turn to stone in the sunlight. 

In short, trolls are not cute little dolls.  Trolls are hideous monsters from Norwegian folklore that are meant to be feared.  Somehow along the way though, they have become something of a cute thing not to be feared.  Some of the best illustration of trolls that I know come from John Bauer.  Here are a couple of pictures for you to enjoy.  Not overly frightening to look at in a picture, but imagine if you met one in real life.  I would run.